You may have several different feelings when you are told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:
- frightened and uncertain
- angry and resentful
You may feel some or all of these feelings. Or you may feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.
Feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.
You may be more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information helps you to know what to expect.
Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed or given sad news about your outlook. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask. They can also help you to remember the information that was given. Getting a lot of new information can feel overwhelming.
Ask your doctors and nurse specialists to explain things again if you need them to.
You might feel that you don’t want to know much information straight away. Tell your doctor or nurse. You will always be able to ask for more information when you feel ready.
Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.
You can also do practical things such as:
- making lists to help you
- having a calendar with all appointments
- having goals
- planning enjoyable things around weeks that might be trickier than others
Talking to other people
Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation or be afraid they will say the wrong thing.
It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you and them.
Help your family and friends by letting them know if you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.
You might find it easier to talk to someone other than your own friends and family. We have cancer information nurses you can call on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.
After surgery to remove your larynx you might have to cope with changes in how you breathe and speak.
These changes can be very difficult to cope with. They can affect the way you feel about yourself, your self esteem and how you relate to others (especially those very close to you). If you are in a sexual relationship, some of these changes may also affect your sex life.
You might also have to cope with feeling very tired (fatigue) and lethargic a lot of the time. This is common in a lot of people who have cancer in the head and neck area, especially if the cancer is advanced.
You and your family might need to cope with practical things including:
- money matters
- financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
- work issues
- Blue Badge applications
- help with travel costs
- changes to your house
Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. You might be able to get some benefits for yourself and the person caring for you. You might also be able to get grants for heating costs, holidays and other household expenses related to your illness.
Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later. It may be helpful to see a social worker. Many hospital cancer departments have a social worker available for patients.
Remember that you don't have to sort everything out at once. It may take some time to deal with each issue.
Ask for help if you need. You doctor or specialist head and neck nurse will know who you can contact to get some help.